Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Whole FamDamily Goes to the Oregon Coast

My parents built a beautiful beach house in Nedonna Beach, near Rockaway, Oregon, and once upon a time we told ourselves we needed to go there once a month. Alas, as children have arrived and our schedules have become ever busier, we don't get to the beach nearly as often as we need to.

It is a sad state of affairs to note that Christopher's first visit to the beach was when he was 4 months adjusted, Kieran was 2 months old, and Nicholas' first official visit occurred when he was nearly 9 months old!! Our last official beach visit (not counting a marriage retreat in April, where we didn't get down to the beach) was the 4th of July, when I was still pregnant with Nicholas.

We had a lovely long Memorial Day weekend, where we saw some friends and just generally had a great time hanging out. Nicholas decided that he is another beach lover in the family!

We went to the recently renovated (3 years ago) Cape Meares Lighthouse--lovely views; had dinner and ice cream at the Tillamook Cheese Factory (I had Oregon blackberry ice cream, Mike and Kieran had root beer floats, and Chris had a double-scoop cone with Mud Slide and chocolate chip cookie dough); and hung out with friends at their house in Manzanita.

Here are some photos from Nicholas' first official beach trip:

Nicholas, Mike, and Chris on the beach--Chris rode his bicycle all the way down to the jetty!

Kieran and Chris posing by a huge old gnarly bundle of roots on a felled tree

Collecting beach sticks in his bucket

Our big 10-year-old!

Happy boy loving his beach walk!

With my three little beach bums

View from the Cape Meares Lighthouse lookout

The whole "famdamily" at the beach!

First Year of Preschool

It's amazing how quickly the past school year has flown by. Kieran started preschool the week after Nicholas was born. We weren't sure how he would adapt to preschool, since he'd never been in day care or away from us much, but we thought he'd get used to it more quickly than Christopher did. We were wrong! It took about the same amount of time for Kieran to get comfortable and really come to love preschool. He took a laminated photo of us every school day, so he could pull it out of his bag and see our faces, just in case he started to miss us.

What a difference 9 months makes! Now Kieran loves his school, looks forward to going, and even has a "girlfriend" or two! On the last day of the school year, the preschool had an outdoor day--complete with horse cart rides, bubbles, and outside crafts. This week he is at "summer camp" every morning.

Kieran has an incredibly active imagination and loves fairy tales. After we recently bought the book Click Clack Moo, he announced that he had come up with three rules: (1) we need to buy a bigger house with a bigger yard because (2) we have to buy a cow...named Zeke (from the Wizard of Oz)...but it's a GIRL cow...and (3) I have to work more because I need to earn more money so we can buy a bigger house. (I didn't bother explaining that it doesn't work that way in my salaried position...)

Then the other day I was talking about his fondness for chickens. Our neighbor keeps chickens, and one of her first chickens, named Omelet, was Kieran's favorite. He called her "Ommy" for short. Unfortunately, Ommy was killed by another neighbor's dog. At any rate, I was asking him how he felt about the fact that we eat chickens. His reply: "Mommy, they're COOKED!" Duh.

Here are some photos of the last day:

Kieran and Mom on the horse cart

With Teacher Sydney

With Teacher Marah

Listening intently to a story

Blowing bubbles

Another sign of how quickly time flies is this little guy--born on Labor Day and now nearly 9 months old! Enjoying the swings at the preschool celebration...
At home, in his his Wicked Witch costume, with painted yellow eyebrows! In his right hand is a bread machine pan...which is being used as his milk bucket for his cow, Zeke.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Traveling the One Track Road

A dear friend of mine from PLU, who is an incredible Anglophile, is taking her annual trip to England. She has been keeping a travel journal in a wonderful blog. If you love England, scones with clotted cream, gardens, country walks, or English literature, I encourage you to take a look.

Kristin's Christmas letters are among those we look forward to the most. She's a colorful, talented, and funny writer, and reading her blog cannot fail to make you long to hit the open road bound for England!

Motherhood Is Such an Ego Trip...

My favorite part of the day is when I walk into that front door and know I will be greeted by grinning faces...Kieran often waits for me at the door and shouts "Mommy!!" and Nicholas just sits there and smiles...for a few moments before he commences to whine if I don't rush to pick him up immediately. This is what I come home to:

In no other role in my life have I felt so appreciated and adored on a daily basis. Even if I make a mistake, they forgive me. They think I'm smart, beautiful, and accomplished. They don't think I need to lose a few pounds or a few wrinkles. They think that mommies go out to work to support their families and come home to give hugs and cuddles. They think that daddies are just as nurturing and involved as mommies.

Some people give me sympathetic sighs when I tell them that I have three sons. But I'm immensely grateful that all three of my boys are affectionate, loving, and sweet. They all love books, music, and theater, as well as the requisite sports and physical activity. Even at age 10, Chris still tells us he loves us on a regular basis. That is priceless.

One of the huge benefits of having children--as I was discussing with a coworker the other day who is the father of two young kids--is that they make it so much easier to leave your work behind at the office at the end of the day. They are the reason for the weekend. They make it all worth while...especially given the fact that each one of my boys is a miracle in his own special way.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

A Gray Area of Choice: Down Syndrome vs. Genetic Testing

All women over the age of 35 are encouraged to have genetic testing to determine whether their babies have Down Syndrome or some other type of genetic condition. In many cases, "encourage" is too soft for the type of pressure mothers are under. If you are over 40 and elect not to have an amnio, you are questioned not only by doctors but also by well-meaning friends and family. (Believe me, I know...)

There is a campaign amongst families of Down Syndrome children to educate Americans about these children and encourage obstetricians and genetic counselors to learn more about the condition. About 90% of babies who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome are aborted each year. The decision to have a Down Syndrome baby is now a choice in many cases. The families are concerned that with fewer and fewer Down Syndrome children, the more difficult it will be for them to be able to find a community and get needed resources and legislation. The New York Times has an article and some excellent videos about this campaign.

As with so many of these types of topics, I find myself on the fence with this issue, and my personal feeling differs from my political and overall perspective. We decided not to have an amnio with either of the babies I had over 35 (and one over 40), because of (1) the increased chance of miscarriage or premature birth, and (2) our belief that whatever happens is meant to be. With my most recent pregnancy, we discovered through the 20-week ultrasound that Nicholas had a "soft marker" for the fatal form of Trisomy. The doctor on call strongly suggested that we should change our mind about not having an amnio. Fortunately, my regular perinatologist completely supported our decision not to do so. I must say I was tempted to go the amnio route, given the fact that it was an unplanned pregnancy and such a birth would have been devastating for all of our family. Ultimately, we decided against the amnio, partly because the chance of having Trisomy 18 was still very small statistically. I imagine that knowing that my mom had German Measles when she had me--pre-prenatal testing, and they had no idea how I would be affected--might have also had an effect on me subconsciously. If our third child had been born less than "normal," we would have loved him and viewed his life as a gift, however difficult our journey might have been.

Prenatal testing is a mixed blessing. I have an e-mail acquaintance who had one daughter whose life was saved because of prenatal testing. However, on her next pregnancy, the prenatal tests indicated an abnormality, they decided to terminate, and then discovered that the baby was completely fine. It was a mistake in the lab. Can you imagine the devastation and anger these parents feel?

It's no wonder that 90% of Down's pregnancies are terminated...I know many parents who were strongly urged to terminate their pregnancies when Down Syndrome or some other condition was detected. This is why parents of Down Syndrome kids need to educate obstetricians and genetic counselors. It's one thing to educate parents, but to try to convince them that a child with Down's does not have a life worth living is quite another.

From a bigger-picture perspective, I passionately believe that parents should be well informed and should have CHOICES. I am pro-choice. I don't think that people should bring children into the world unless they can provide loving homes and environments for them. But on the other hand, the 90% statistic makes me sad. Do we need to have "perfect" babies? I know that some parents facing the prospect of having a micropreemie elect not to rescusitate, and although I believe they should be able to make that choice, it makes me sad too. Just because a baby is born "normal" doesn't mean that he or she will live a normal life...who knows what can happen. As one of the moms on one of the videos said, of her three children, she thinks that her son with Down's is the easiest.

Rambling thoughts. Does this make any sense?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Earth Day and the Bees

My parents sent me an e-mail with a message from Bill Maher about Earth Day and the disappearing bees. It turns out that it's from Bill Maher's blog via The Huffington Post. I encourage you to check it out.

It's well written, thought-provoking, and damn scary. (Christopher would not approve of my writing "damn," but when it involves global warming and environmental degradation, I think it's a perfect choice.)

Who knew that bees hate cell phones?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Shift Happens

Here's a mind-blowing video that puts a new spin on globalization and change. I think we'd all better learn Chinese and Hindi!

This makes one realize that anyone with a xenophobic focus is going to get left behind...literally!

Have you heard about the "Post-Rapture Post: The Postal Service of the Saved," which (for a small fee ranging from $4.99 to $799.99) to your friends and family, essentially saying "I told you so!" or asking them to feed your pets...(I'll never forget a conversation I had my first year in college in a bible study with some fundamentalist dorm-mates, who were trying to convince me that my agnostic, Jewish friend from high school was going to go to hell. That was the last they saw of me.)

How can you be assured that the letter will be sent? Why, because the site is operated by atheists, and they will be left behind! I love it! The atheists are having the last laugh!

Here is the site, if you want to take a peek!

Eight Months Old Already!

As anyone who has had a child realizes, you never really realize how quickly time passes until you have a visual reminder of that fact in front of you. Nicholas is 8 months old today, and it's truly hard to believe it!

He took his first bath with his big brother this week, and they both had a great time! N. is a little water baby; he was splashing in the water and even tried to put his face in it. Maybe he'll take after his oldest brother and become a swimmer. When I said that aloud, Kieran notified me that he himself is definitely NOT a swimmer. (We had him in swimming lessons last year but finally decided to take a break because he wouldn't participate unless Mike was in the pool with him.)
Here are some photos that show how quickly 8 months pass!

In the hospital, a few days old...

First bath together
Enjoying my food!
Nicholas continues to be a sweet little guy with a cheerful disposition. He loves to be cuddled and likes attention. One of his favorite past times is dancing, especially to "Jump Up" by Dan Zanes. He also likes it when his brothers serenade him.
Happy 8-month birthday, little guy!

Stress and Shingles

This week I discovered a recurrence of the shingles, which I initially had almost 2 years ago. I'm wondering whether I have a genetic predisposition to the shingles, because both of my parents have had it in the past few years. When I first had it, it took awhile to get diagnosed because I knew so little about the disease...and at first I thought I had some kind of cyst behind my ear.

Here's a mini lesson on the shingles: when you have chicken pox, the virus lies latent in your body and sometimes returns as the shingles when you are MUCH older. (Usually older than 40 or 42!) It appears as a series of painful sores in a nerve line on your body--can be on the chest, face, neck, or anywhere. I'm fortunate that mine starts behind my ear and goes around my neck (not on my face!). It's important to get it treated as soon as possible, because the earlier it's treated, the less painful and debilitating it is. Some people even get it in their eyes, and it can cause blindness if not treated! Last time around, I had quite a lot of pain and felt awful for a few days (although part of that might have been the anti-viral medication).

This time around, I felt the pain before I got the telltale bumps behind my ear. They are miniscule, but I've been getting more and more of them. The concern this time around is that Nicholas has not had his chicken pox vaccination yet, and it is possible to catch chicken pox from someone who has the shingles (by contact with fluid from the sores). I have covered them up with band-aids, so I'm hoping he's safe! Can't exactly separate an 8-month-old from his mommy, especially when he's still nursing.

Shingles is usually brought on by stress. I've been worrying about a few things lately--nothing major but the stress is obviously making itself manifest in my body. Obviously, I need to take up meditation!

Sorry if all this is way TMI (too much information)!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Joan Baez Banned from Performing at Walter Reed Medicatl Center

I was troubled (but not surprised) to read today in the Yahoo News that Walter Reed Medical Center (and the army, in general) has banned Joan Baez from performing for veterans. She has long been one of my heroes because of her passion- and peace-filled music along with her activism.

It reminds me of an anecdote in Jane Fonda's wonderful memoir, which I read last year (My Life So Far), when she wrote about her regrets about being photographed on an anti-aircraft gun in Hanoi...but also her hurt at being shunned by veterans. She was never against the veterans, but against the war. She also wrote about her efforts to reconcile with some veterans' groups and the hope and resolution that both she and they felt after their discussions.

I find it truly sad to see the polarization on this topic, especially in light of the revelations about the poor medical care and benefits soldiers are receiving. In so many cases, our soldiers come from disadvantaged communities. They are not part of the problem. The hawks who unthinkingly send them off to war without regard for their lives, or the lives of the Afghani and Iraqi citizens, are the problem.

I'm hoping that the banning of Joan Baez calls media attention to the hypocrisy inherent in this action. John Mellencamp has also spoken against the war, although he is more of a recent opponent and is viewed as an American icon. Go, Joan!!